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May 29, 2003

Skateboarding flap in Eureka
A proposal to adopt the Arcata model

Flesh to the skeleton:
Mad River Hospital resumes construction

A stem cell donor's tale

Deputies back recall

New PL charges

Eureka marine dies

Forest protected

Theater takes a hit

Sobering conference

Skateboarding flap in Eureka
A proposal to adopt the Arcata model


MIKE JONES REMEMBERS HOW IT FELT. The aluminum wheels of his board would send vibrations through his legs and rattle his kneecaps whenever he would cruise down the hills of the Eureka neighborhood he grew up in.

That was in the early `60s. More than 40 years later, Jones, Fifth Ward councilman of Eureka, has not forgotten the thrill of skateboarding. But that does not mean he wants to see the activity made legal, at least not in Old Town.

All forms of coasting, including skateboarding, roller-skating and the use of any "toy vehicle," were banned in Old Town in 1963, a prohibition that continues to this day.

"They're dangerous," Jones said, referring to skateboards. "These days they're a lot more fluid and faster and the [chances] of slipping off of one and getting hit by a car are greater."

Shawn Newman with skateboardHogwash, said Shawn Newman [photo at right]. The 27-year-old skater acknowledged that skateboards of the past were indeed slower, but he contended that the increased mobility of today's boards creates a safer ride.

If it weren't for Newman, there wouldn't even be a debate right now over skateboarding in Eureka. Ever since being ticketed for skateboarding in Old Town's no-skate zone a year ago, Newman has been on a crusade to have the 40-year-old ordinance revised.

Last summer, on the final leg of his 2-mile commute, Newman stopped at the intersection of F and Second streets, continued down the road and entered the alley behind his workplace, Hurricane Kate's. It was there that he was pulled over and cited by a bicycle patrol officer.

After paying his fine, Newman persistently sought out any Eureka City Council member who would listen to what he had in mind. No one, however, seemed to have the time to pay the issue much attention. Newman, full-time employee and father of a 5-year-old daughter, didn't have the time either, but he found it.

"I was going down there before work, after work and on my days off," Newman said. "It got to the point that I'd walk in, and the city clerk would say, `Hi, Mr. Newman. Back again?'"

He was finally heard last July at a City Council meeting where he outlined how Old Town would benefit if the ordinance were revised. His argument was simple: Lift the archaic ban on skating and fewer people will drive their cars. The result will be increased parking availability and a decrease in pollution and traffic. The downtown district will become more tourist-friendly.

The argument proved persuasive, as last year's council agreed that the ordinance should be reviewed. Since then, Councilmember Jeff Leonard, elected last fall, has taken up the skating issue and is close to completing his proposed revisions.

Instead of having a complete ban of skateboarding in the downtown district, Leonard is proposing that the new law would roughly follow Arcata's regulations on skateboarding. Skaters would follow the same rules as bicycle riders, who follow the same traffic laws as cars, in addition to riding as close to the right hand curb as possible, wearing reflective gear at night and lighting their path with a flashlight.

The revised ordinance faces some obstacles, perhaps chief among them the reality that a lot of other things have higher priority."There have been quite a few items that have taken precedence," Leonard said, naming, among other things, the controversial big box ordinance. "I'm hoping this [skating ordinance] is going to break free in June."

There's also the opposition of Jones.

"The law should stay the way it is," Jones said. "Skaters are a danger to traffic and a danger to themselves."

The owners of Old Town retail businesses are also divided. Philip Hayfmer, owner of Many Hands Gallery, is concerned that if skateboarding is permitted, skaters will abuse the privilege. He predicted they would find their way onto sidewalks and start doing tricks on their boards, endangering pedestrians and shoppers.

"I remember when the law wasn't strictly enforced and kids would be skating on the gazebo. No one else dared to go over there for fear that they'd be run over," Hayfmer said.

On the other hand, Louise Bacon-Ogden, owner of Strictly for the Birds, located just a few shops away from Hayfmer, thinks that the ban discriminates against skateboarders because of the way they tend to look.

"Skaters are perceived as being up to no good. They might have funky colored hair and nose rings and automatically it's assumed that they're creeps, and they're hassled for it.

"I'd rather see guidelines in place so the people who use their skateboard as transportation can go to work without being punished, and the small percentage who misuse the right to skate face the consequences," Bacon-Ogden said.

Meanwhile, Newman is driving his van to work five days a week.

"The new ordinance is a win-win situation," Newman maintained. "The city, the tourists, the store owners, the environment and the skaters -- everybody is better off. The sooner this thing goes into effect, the better."

Flesh to the skeleton:
Mad River Hospital resumes construction


Mad River Hospital's unfinished buildingFor 14 months the monstrous steel skeleton stood silent, a testament to the financial difficulties faced by one small rural hospital. Earlier this month, construction began anew on Mad River's 22,000-square-foot Medical Outpatients Building, part of the hospital complex on Janes Road in Arcata.

"Of course we're thrilled," said Alison Book, public relations coordinator for the hospital.

Hospital officials had suspended work on the building in March 2001 after a crucial bank loan failed to materialize. A consultant was brought in and, one month later, 49 full- and part-time employees were laid off. It was the first layoff in the hospital's 30-year history.

The financial troubles were attributed to falling revenues, primarily from MediCal reimbursements, and additional regulation from the state.

"We have been going through a refinancing process," Book said last week. "At this time, the administration feels comfortable in completing the building."

The building will house outpatient services, including women's health, physical and occupational therapy and radiology. The site will also provide short-stay services such as endoscopies (a non-surgical internal examination) and eye surgeries.

In an interview last year, Doug Shaw, whose family owns the majority of stock in the closely held corporation, said Mad River is a rare bird: a privately owned independent hospital. Most hospitals are nonprofits and part of large hospital chains, such as St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals, or they are supported by special districts like Jerold Phelps Hospital in Garberville.

A stem cell donor's tale


When I gave blood in July 2001, I was asked if I wanted to have my blood sample included in the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry. I didn't hesitate. I said to a friend later, "I have a feeling that they are going to call me one day." Somehow I just knew that my blood sample would match someone in need of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

I learned of the NMDP registry in 1990, when a former co-worker, David, was told that his leukemia had returned after a five-year remission. Only 26, he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. A donor was needed, but no matches were found within his family, the first place where a match is sought. (Siblings have a 25 percent chance of matching one another.)

Everyone who knew David was encouraged to join the NMDP registry, in hopes that a match would be found. In those days the registry had only been around for about three years, so the pool of donors was limited.

Unfortunately, there was a $50 fee to get on the registry. I was a starving student, along with several others who knew Dave, and few of us could afford to sign up.

A suitable donor was eventually located, but by then David was very sick. The transplant was performed, but sadly, he didn't survive. I thought that if only a match had been found earlier, he might have made it. I wished that I had gotten on the registry then.

The process begins

Last summer, almost exactly a year after joining up, I got a call. I was a preliminary match to a person in need of a transplant; was I interested in donating? I said I was -- I found the prospect very exciting.

But I wasn't considered a suitable donor yet; a "confirmatory typing" blood sample would have to be taken. It turned out that the first blood test showed a match on four of the six tissue typing markers. An additional test was needed to determine if the last two markers also matched.

Before blood for that test could be drawn, I had to learn more about what I was getting into. From a brochure at the Northern California Community Blood Bank in Eureka, I learned that donations are made in one of two ways. One is through direct extraction of bone marrow. It's a surgical procedure that requires a one-night stay in a hospital. Regional or general anesthesia is given and a portion of marrow is removed from the back of the pelvic bone using a needle and syringe.

The other method, a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, extracts stem cells. It's a newer process in which a "growth factor" medication is given to the donor to increase the number of stem cells in the bloodstream. When a sufficient quantity is present, blood is drawn and passed through an apheresis device, which separates stem cells from other blood cells, returning the remainder to the donor. It's similar to the procedure people undergo when they donate platelets at the blood bank.

The brochure listed possible side effects from both procedures, including bone pain, insomnia, headaches, fatigue and nausea.

I admit that at this point I experienced some trepidation, but I felt compelled to brave whatever might happen. I agreed to go to the next level. I signed consent forms, and a sample of my blood was drawn and sent to a lab.

About a month later, I received another call, this time from Lupe Valdez Perez of Bloodsource in Sacramento, which coordinates bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

Lupe excitedly told me that I was an exact match on all six tissue markers to a 48-year-old woman with plasma cell leukemia, who needed a stem cell transplant. Again, I was asked if I still wanted to participate. Again, I said yes.

Two airplane flights to Sacramento soon followed. The main purpose of the first, a there-and-back-in-one-day affair, was to ensure that I was in good health (I checked out fine after a physical exam at Sacramento's Sutter Hospital that included a chest X-ray and an EKG). I also learned from a doctor that the woman who would receive my stem cells was desperately ill, and that a stem cell transplant was the best method in her particular case as it would be less risky. (For my part, I was relieved to not have to endure a hospital stay, which would have been necessary had I been donating bone marrow.)

Before the second flight, Tennie Brooks, a good-humored R.N. at the Eureka blood bank, administered three injections in as many days of the growth factor medication, Filgrastim. After the second day, I started to feel one of the most common side effects of the drug -- bone pain. It was a deep muscle pain in the thighs, like after strenuous running or hiking. I also felt pain low in my back. Fortunately I was allowed to take ibuprofen.

Blood from a bumblebee

I flew to Sacramento again on the evening of Oct. 30. This time I would spend two nights there, at a downtown hotel. On Halloween morning, Lupe, the woman who had informed me about the match in the first place, arrived to pick me up and take me to Bloodsource for the first four-hour stem cell collection process. A vivacious and maternal woman, she was surprised and amused to see me dressed in a bumblebee costume.

Grace in bee suit, sitting on bed, with apheresis machineSo were the rest of the folks at Bloodsource, a beautiful facility full of light and green plants. Still in my bee suit, I received the final injection of Filgrastim, and was given breakfast while the medication took effect.

Now it was time for the actual injection. Marcy McIntyre, a graduate of Humboldt State University and a nurse that I had met on my first visit, came into the room, her face painted as a jack-o-lantern. She was going to tend to the apheresis machine. A needle was put in one of my arms, blood was drawn and then sent to the machine, which uses centrifugal force to sort out the stem cells. These ended up in a plastic blood bag, while the blood minus the stem cells was returned to me through a needle in my other arm. Luckily, I have prominent veins and no trouble was had. I tried to resist the vampire jokes.

There was a television in the little room where I sat up in a hospital bed. It was on the whole time, and helped create a rather surreal atmosphere. There were Regis and Kelly on Halloween, dressed as one another and laughing, while I sat mostly immobile, tethered to this machine that was sucking up my blood and spitting it back into me. Marcy and I talked a lot, ignoring the TV, but occasionally looking up to chuckle. I also enjoyed the costumes worn by other Bloodsource staffers, which included two witches -- but no vampires.

After the first hour, my lower back really began to hurt. I was given some pillows for back support. I was also allowed to shift my body a little -- while carefully watching the needles in my arms.

Another side effect soon became apparent: tingling in the mouth and fingers. I had been told that this could occur. It was because of an anti-coagulant that I had been given (the medication is necessary for the apheresis process). I took some Tums, a source of calcium, which helped somewhat.

Near the end of the process, I was fed a hearty lunch. When it was all over, I took a taxi back to the hotel. I felt very tired, as I hadn't slept well the first night, and perhaps the process took a bit of my energy. Also, I still had tingling hands. I had a light dinner, went for a short walk and then went to bed early, which was a good idea, as Lupe arrived at 6 the next morning to bring me back to Bloodsource for the final collection process. This time, along with a muffin, I was given a large glass of milk to get some calcium in my body to prevent or at least reduce the tingling.

I was then promptly hooked up to the apheresis machine, as my donation needed to be on an airplane by noon that day to get to the eager doctors and recipient. The Bloodsource staff was nervously whirling around, creating labels, filling out paperwork, making and taking phone calls and double-checking everything. I didn't have the low back pain anymore, nor the tingling, and the process went very smoothly. Two other nurses, Tammy and Natalie, attended to me, and were kind enough to sit and chat with me for the three hours that it took.

After I was detached from the machine, I was surprised how little was in the collection bag, perhaps two cups or so. This was packed up with the previous day's collection, labeled, and rushed off to the plane. I mentally sent the recipient good wishes along with this precious cargo.

After a doctor checked me over and asked some questions, I said goodbye to the staff of Bloodsource and returned to my hotel. It was a few hours before I would board my plane home. I had good energy this time and walked into Old Sacramento, where I enjoyed the Railroad Museum and a hotdog and soda.

A duty

I returned home that evening; the flight was smooth and easy. A week later, Lupe called to ask how I was feeling. I said just fine -- despite, I added, having been stuck by needles a total of 16 times. (Lupe laughed because I'd bothered to count.) She called me again a month later, and will call periodically until this fall, as studies are still being done on the use of Filgrastim and on the stem cell donation procedure itself.

Many have asked if I know how the recipient of my donation is doing. I haven't been told and don't know if I ever will, and that's OK. I knew from the start that she didn't have great odds, but at least the transplant gave her another chance.

The medical staff at Bloodsource and at the Eureka blood bank expressed a lot of gratitude to me for donating, but really it was I who was grateful. I was given expert care, and all my questions were answered. They did everything possible to ensure my safety and comfort. I never felt scared or uninformed.

The process was relatively easy for me to handle and I wasn't trying to be a hero. I thought of it as a duty to give someone another chance for life. It was a way for me to counteract some of the pain and greed in the world, and I was thankful for the opportunity.

Grace Kerr is a graphic artist on the Journal's production staff.

 Transplant facts

Stem cell transplants are so new that there is very little data as to their efficacy. But it is anticipated that the outcomes will be comparable to bone marrow transplants. Here are a few quick facts on that procedure:

  • Zero to 15 percent of leukemia patients who need a bone marrow transplant and don't get one survive.
  • One-fifth to more than half of leukemia patients who receive a bone marrow transplant from a donor who is not related to them survive. (These figures are based on the type of leukemia, when the patient received the transplant and other factors.)

Here are some basics relevant to both bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants:

  • Some donors are informed as to their recipient's condition, but only if the recipient's family chooses to allow the information to be shared.
  • Identities are not revealed. However, if the donor and recipient give permission, some transplant centers will coordinate an anonymous communication between them. After a year, identities can be revealed if both parties agree in writing.
  • Donors are not paid, but the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry covers expenses, including meals. If donors can show that missing work will cause them financial hardship, lost wages will be reimbursed.

To get on the National Marrow Donor Program registry, sign up at the Northern California Community Blood Bank in Eureka (at this time, there is no fee). Call 443-8004.

For more details on bone marrow and stem cell transplants, see, or pick up a brochure at the Eureka blood bank.

Deputies back recall

In an interview late Tuesday, District Attorney Paul Gallegos said the Humboldt Deputy Sheriff's Organization, a union, and its equivalent at the Eureka Police Department are supporting the effort to recall him.

"I think it's a misunderstanding to think that [this] represents all of the [sheriff's deputies and police officers'] positions," Gallegos said. "I think it's a union thing."

The sheriff's organization notified the press by fax Tuesday afternoon that it would announce "the position the members have taken" on the recall effort at a press conference on Wednesday.

Dave Morey, president of the organization, could not be reached for comment. Sheriff Gary Philp was also unavailable.

Gallegos said that any political stand on the part of the organization would not affect his working relationship with law enforcement.

"I'm not going to personalize stuff; I'm going to keep doing my job," he said. "You have to be philosophical about these things."

Earlier this year, Eureka police officers publicly charged Gallegos with being soft on crime when he struck a plea bargain involving suspects in a drive-by shooting spree in Eureka. No one was hurt in the episode. The defendants each face seven years in prison.

New PL charges

The District Attorney's Office broadened its case against the Pacific Lumber Co. on Tuesday, alleging in court papers that more than half of the $500 million that PL received in the Headwaters deal was obtained fraudulently and that the company needs to pay the money back.

"The cost was to all Californians," Gallegos said in an interview. Referring to PL, he added: "When you deceive the government, when you deceive the people and the cost they bear outweighs any benefit they see, then they have the right to seek sanctions."

The revised case, Gallegos said, should clear up once and for all that the fraud case does not depend solely on logging on unstable slopes, a prominent charge in the initial complaint; he said the entire Headwaters agreement was "tainted" from the beginning.

"They deceived government agencies, as a result everything that emanated therefrom was garbage," he said.

Pacific Lumber was not reached for comment.

The revised complaint asks for an injunction that would require PL to immediately reduce its logging by 40 million board-feet per year. It also asks for $2,500 in penalties for every tree authorized to be harvested since the Headwaters deal took effect on March 1, 1999.

Last week, a Superior Court judge threw the validity of the agreement into doubt -- not to mention future PL logging -- when he ruled that the Sustained Yield Plan, a pillar of the Headwaters agreement, never existed in a usable form.

Following the ruling, State Senator John Burton, the Senate's president pro tem, announced that a Senate subcommittee would hold hearings on the Headwaters deal, which traded half-a-billion dollars for old-growth redwoods and an agreement by the company to adhere to new logging guidelines.

Eureka marine dies

A Humboldt County native has made the ultimate sacrifice in the war for Iraq. Marine Capt. Andrew La Mont, 32, of Eureka was confirmed dead last week in Iraq, marking the North Coast's first casualty in the conflict.

La Mont, a pilot, was killed when his helicopter plummeted into a canal on a routine re-supply mission southeast of Karbala on May 19.

He was unmarried and had no children. He is survived by his parents, James and Vivian La Mont, as well as three brothers and four sisters.

A Marine spokesman said Tuesday that the cause of the crash is under investigation, but that there probably wouldn't be any answers for several months.

Forest protected

A two-year effort to buy a 581-acre parcel of Pacific Lumber Co. timberland outside of Redway was finalized last week.

The parcel was bought with $2.5 million of Proposition 40 bond funds and is now part of the state parks system. Proposition 40, approved by voters last year, is designed to protect the environment through such measures as land acquisition.

"The Pacific Lumber Company is pleased to once again complete a transaction with our neighbors in the state park that provides additional valuable parkland while at the same time provided fair compensation for our company," PL President Robert Manne said in a press release.

The thickly forested land is adjacent to the John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Reserve and contains redwoods, including some old growth, and Douglas fir.

"It's a nice little resource refugia," said Steve Horvitz, superintendent of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which will administer the forest.

The land is open to the public for day use, but Horvitz said access will be difficult until the California Department of Parks and Recreation can get out there and do some surveying work for roads and trails.

The Redway group Stable Slopes and the Save the Redwoods League helped facilitate the deal.

Theater takes a hit

The art-deco facade of the Arcata Theater took a beating last Friday when a U-Haul truck backed into it.

The driver, David Katz, was apparently trying to park on the curb when the back corner of the truck caught on the nose of the marquee, still reading "THEATER FOR SALE." He then tried to pull forward, but only succeeded in peeling back the lower part of the marquee's south side.

Arcata contractor Kelly Martin was called in Friday night to make an emergency repair, removing the dangling piece of facade and boarding up the hole.

The building's owners have yet to fully assess the damage.

"I have no idea what it's going to cost. That's still down the road yet," said Bob Morse of Bindell Realty, which has been trying to sell the theater for almost a year. He said he didn't think that the damage would deter any potential buyers.

In another act of seemingly random violence against an Arcata landmark, vandals ripped the thumb off the 97-year old bronze statue of William McKinley that stands in the middle of the Arcata Plaza.

Sobering conference

There was a pall of fear in the room as the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors settled down on Tuesday to get the straight poop from their man in Sacramento, former Supervisor Don Peterson.

The county is looking at a minimum 15 percent cut in next year's budget, but many crucial issues have yet to be hammered out. "We don't know exactly what is going to happen," said Supervisor Jimmy Smith, remarking on the general tenseness in the room.

Peterson, a lobbyist for Humboldt and other counties, spoke by video-teleconference from the office of the California Association of Counties. He laid out a situation that is becoming more and more pressing. The budget is 95 to 98 percent complete now that Gov. Gray Davis' revised budget, submitted in May, is out, but the devil is in the details.

One item of particular concern to the supervisors is a possible change in the allocation of vehicle license fees -- fees that are constitutionally mandated to the county that have come under attack as the budget crisis has deepened. It was promised that any resulting shortfall in the fees would be made up. That shortfall amounted to $232 million a month last year, about $500,000 of which went to Humboldt County. "That money is absolutely sacrosanct," said Smith. "The county will collapse without it."

Also discussed were the effects of a half-percent increase in the state sales tax, and the dramatic rise in worker's compensation costs (Humboldt County is the biggest employer in the region).

The face-to-face teleconference, with both locations appearing simultaneously on a big screen TV, was a first for the Board of Supervisors and was met with general acclamation.



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